Book a luxury getaway – the new hotels from Mr & Mrs Smith collection deliver on style, but at prices you can budget for.
Provence meets Pondicherry farmhouse in sweet-smelling orchards
Rooms: Five. Rates: Doubles from €170/ £135, B&B. Perfect for... Wine lovers, painters, cooking enthusiasts. Packing tips: leave your music collection behind, there's a Shuffle-full of tunes on your in-room iPod.
Transformed from crumbling farmhouse to luxury guesthouse, this French hideaway in picturesque Provençal wineland has been lovingly filled with modern-day artworks and globally curated artefacts. Saved from ruin, Clos du Léthé was carefully rebuilt by a team of inventive craftsman, its original stone walls blend seamlessly with Asian treasures such as carved wooden doors. Only five suites, each innovatively and individually designed to maximise on the abundant space, light and, most critically, the scenic view: the rolling vineyards and apricot orchards of Languedoc-Rousillon. And the last thing you want from a hotel on holiday is something less special than what you have at home. Be assured that time here is a an anything-but-everyday environment. Earthy resin floors support hand-cast baths, each with their own theatrical feature, be that a hidden fountain tap or a water wall. Private terraces tempt you out to alfresco showers and day-beds decked out in exquisite linens. The glorious gardens complete the exciting sensory treat, perfumed with fragrant lavender and decorated with pretty water features. Gaze beyond a glistening infinity pool to watercolour-worthy rows of perfectly maintained apricot trees beyond. And don’t think your tastebuds will go untantalised at this luxury bed and breakfast – the owner, Pierre, is also a distinguished chef, on hand to teach you the art of Provençal cooking. That’s if you can prise yourself off a sunlounger, one of their impressive collection of modern art books in hand. Kick back, relax and breathe in those scents of the soul-uplifting South of France...
Period charm in walled Cotswolds gardens
Rooms: 12. Rates: from £105, including breakfast. Perfect for… Wine lovers, dog owners, new mums and dads. Packing tips: your swimsuit, if you fancy a dip in the outdoor pool. No need to take cots or baby monitors as these are provided.
‘Crudwell’ may conjure up a bleak industrial estate rather than quaint Cotswold escape. Dominated by a grey, stone Saxon church and a fine 17th-century residence, thankfully this village couldn’t be more postcard-worthy. Arriving at the Rectory, you could be forgiven for thinking you’d pulled up at the country pile of a flush friend. There’s no reception, just a simple desk in the front room. No computer, no phone – just hear-a-pin-drop calm. Its new owners, Jonathan (ex-Hotel du Vin) and Julian (an antiques/art dealer and interior designer) have given it a makeover that’s considerate of the original architecture, pumping it with enough modern flourishes to make the style-savvy feel at home. And, as befits the former home of a rector who had 14 children, the hotel is very family friendly. Bedrooms are furnished in tasteful pale-palette hues combined with charming old-world wooden beams, which, teamed with open log fires, canoodle-friendly armchairs and crisp Egyptian linen, leave little wonder as to the Rectory’s appeal to courting couples. And if the way to your heart is through your stomach, let chef Peter Fairclough play Cupid. A supporter of the Slow Food Movement, ingredients such as fresh asparagus, Welsh lamb and Pimm’s jelly are as British as warm beer, and local, seasonal, GM-free and organic – just how we like it. This cuisine extends to the village pub, the Potting Shed, a charming grade II-listed inn, yards over the road, owned by the Rectory. For special occasions definitely book a window table in the hotel’s wood-pannelled dining room, and gaze at the glorious green garden, or eat outside in summer months, and ponder how best to frolic alfresco later. You could tour the scenic Cotswolds locale, or stay put for a game of croquet on the lawn or a dip in the heated outdoor pool. And you’ll be pleased to hear that such decision-making is as taxing as life here gets.
Contemporary inn in bright, breezy Cardigan Bay
Rooms: 13, spread over the main building and the warehouse next door; there's also a two-bedroomed cottage three doors down. Rates: from £100. Perfect for… Frustrated poets, horseriders, hikers. Packing tips: fishing rod, kite, stout walking boots or wellies.
Located at the end of a road made primarily of steep hills and blind corners, Aberaeron is a fishing village is painted to perfection, with buildings forming a pitched crescendo of pastels and primaries. The Harbourmaster Hotel’s exterior is jaunty midnight blue and a highlight of the landscape; the overall effect is a little like a seaside version of Cheyne Walk in Chelsea. Inside, a bar with dark wood panelling and white walls is furnished with wooden tables and luscious-looking couches; where better to sink back with a local ale or glass of the well-picked wines in hand? Photographs of local characters, lifted perhaps from the pages of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea, enhance the coastal tone. Nautical-chic suites, with enormous wrought-iron beds and soft-leather couches covered with hand-woven woollen throws, exemplify a décor that is considered yet comfortable. Most rooms have beautiful views across the harbour, but our favourites are the Aeron Belle, which has a comfy couch from which to ogle that ocean, and the Juliet balcony-boasting Aeron Queen, if you like a lungful of air with your panoramas. The hotel’s intimate restaurant boasts the finest from this region’s cuisine, using plenty of locally plucked produce – Welsh black beef, mussels, mackerel and lobster. This is a true celebration of the best of Wales, right down to the homegrown artworks. To use a crass metaphor for somewhere so stylish, if this was a pair of men’s boxers it would be emblazoned with a big red dragon. Hidden coves and sweeping river estuaries, Blue Flag-clean sands – get yourself to Cardigan Bay and fill your lungs with bracing sea air and you’ll soon know why such a landscape had Dylan Thomas so inspired.
Gastro getaway in Somerset’s farmland fields
Rooms: Three. Rates: from £95. Perfect for… Greedy foodies, culture seekers. Packing tips: leave whites at home: you’re bound to miss your mouth a few times in your haste to get delicious food into it. Bring your swimwear if you're planning to venture into Bath to visit the Thermae Spa for treatments.
Comfortably nestled in a pea green valley in beauteous Somerset countryside, Combe Hay (and its centrepiece, this bitesize boutique) is a handy 15 minute drive from the Georgian city of Bath – a favoured haven for cultured weekend awayers. Within solid 16th century stone walls, the mood is reassuringly welcoming: meaning, it has a large bar and speedy service. Interestingly, the bedrooms, built in the former cowshed, aren’t hidden behind the pub but proudly out front. The Friesian occupants are long gone, their hay filled stalls replaced by king-size duck down duvets, DVD players and LCD screens. In homage to the previous residents, each bedroom has a well crafted painting of sturdy looking bovine beasts and each key is attached to a tinkling bell. The bathrooms, modishly tiled, are loaded with fresh-as-a-daisy White Company goodies. With only three rooms across which to spread the Wheatsheaf’s love of all things fine, the big draw here is the phenomenal cooking. Chef Lee Evans may have a name that evokes a sweaty comedian doing silly walks, but not a single thing that passes your lips elicits so much as a smirk, only smiles of satisfaction. Lee’s cuisine is deceptively simple, British, modern and creative. And big boozers, ahem, oenologists, will appreciate the superb wine list, which features a good quantity of quality wines, and isn’t shy of dipping into Wheatsheaf patriarch Ian Barton’s enviable cellar of vintage European rarities. A world away from chain hotel impersonality, the Wheatsheaf is a family affair run by the Bartons (mother, father, daughter, son and dog), who have lived in the village for 15 years and who have given the hotel an atmospheric home from homeliness. They originally took over the place in order to indulge their passions for Epicureanism, art and design, and they’ve certainly done that. With cow bells on.
City guesthouse with gusto
Rooms: Five. Rates: from £80. Perfect for… Shopaholics, action-seekers, seafood fans. Packing tips: good walking shoes. Edinburgh is a city full of hills and many attractions to get round. And it’s always a good idea to prepare for all weather conditions: it can be warm, cold, dry, rainy – all in the same day.
One of Ardmor House’s more heart-warming selling points is its resident hound, Lola. This shaggy-haired (but well behaved) character, and his owners Robin and Colin of course, are partly what makes this five-roomed restored Victorian terrace in the heart of Edinburgh such a special place to stay. A small staircase winds up to lovely, high-ceilinged rooms, where crisp bedsheets and understated decor provide a neutral backdrop for vibrant touches such as red-velvet lampshades. A great base to discover the many sights of Edinburgh, Ardmor House is located on the way to Leith, the up-and-coming dockland area transformed in recent years into a hub of buzzing bars and acclaimed fish restaurants. When it comes to a leisurely breakfast, stay put at Ardmor. Here in the dining room bay windows stream in light from a dewy view of Pilrig Park. Peruse the papers (and a handily supplied weather forecast), with Robin’s celebrated scrambled eggs and a full Scottish breakfast – the latter alone being worthy of his establishment's four-star rating. If it’s retail therapy you’re after, Ardmor is the perfect city-break base. For luxury labels, head for Multrees Walk on St Andrew’s Square, home to Harvey Nichols, Louis Vuitton, Giorgio Armani et al. For vintage finds, second-hand emporium WM Armstrong and Sons on the Grassmarket does a neat line in kilts and cashmere. For iconic wee gifties, cruise the Old Town’s specialist shops for Highland dress and bags of deliciously crumbly Edinburgh rock. For that traditional Scottish tipple, visit Royal Mile Whiskies on the High Street. And if that all sounds too much like hard work, as a guest at this boutique bed and breakfast you also get a discount at the nearby Holmes Place health club, which has a pool, Jacuzzi, steam room and sauna. City life doesn’t get more soothing.
6. THE BATH ARMS Horningsham, Warminster, Wiltshire, UK
Ivy-clad inn on Bath's Longleat estate
Rooms: 15. Rates: from £80. Perfect for… Families, animal lovers, one-night awayers. Packing tips: DVDs and dressing gowns if you have room in the weekender.
When it comes to an inn on one of the UK’s most well known, grandest estates, it’s hard to know whether to expect lodgings grand or humble. At the Bath Arms, there’s a perfect dash of both. Masquerading as a discreet country pub, this country boutique hotel offers stylish serenity on the Marquess of Bath's leafy land. Longleat House and Safari Park are on your lap, so where better to go with kids in tow? But don’t worry if you don’t fancy any nippers tagging along on your much needed weekend away – super-stylish and intimate, the Bath Arms is also the perfect bolthole for couples. Dispense with thoughts of pomp-and-ceremony arrivals: check-in here consists of a casual handing over of keys and G&Ts at the bar. Then it’s up the wonky stairs to your boudoir, ducking low-ceilings along the way. Or go for a snoop and find the retro skittles alley with its come-hither leather armchairs and late-night whisky promise. Rooms are all individual, but a favourite is Bird in the Hand, a gorgeous double in chalky French tones where a huge Louis XV bed, matching nightstands and a writing desk perch delicately under sloped old ceilings, a world away from ordinary country-pub bunk-ups. Things get especially elegant in the scarlet-draped restaurant, where chandeliers and candlelight ramp up the romance. And with locally brewed ales and delicious regional fare on the menu, you don’t need to stray for food and drink. If you fancy some pampering during your stay, book a spin in the Hip Bath micro spa – the holistic treatments using organic products pack a punch. As well as its contemporary stylings and chocolate-box setting, when it comes to adventures outdoors, not many inns can brag that guests have ostriches, lions and lamas right under their noses. It’s not often a UK hotel review comes with a word of warning that involves monkeys, but drivers, watch those cheeky characters. A spell at the Bath Arms will soon have you ditching any stress, but that’s not all it might relieve you of. Keep your eye on the car aerial.
Slick and fashionable, along the coast from Lisbon
Rooms: 34, including one suite and 11 rooms styled by different fashion designers. Rates: from €110/ £87. Perfect for… Stylish sunseekers, cocktail lovers, sophisticated surfers. Packing tips: surf dudes should pack their coolest threads, but leave some space in your suitcase for all those lovely bottles of vintage port you’ll want to take home with you – particularly if you taste some 20-year-old tawny.
Perched on a rock outcrop a few feet from the Atlantic, Farol’s contemporary clout comes courtesy of the clever merger of a traditional 19th-century Portuguese villa with a sleek modernist extension. The blend of old and new is a triumph. The exterior is white and minimalist; the interior is sleek and wood-panelled. Of the hotel’s 34 bedrooms, ten are the creation of esteemed Portuguese fashion designers, such as Ana Salazar and José Antonio Tenente. Each room has its own USP, whether a 180-degree ocean scene, Boogie Nights inspired styling, or all-white decor (vistaholics, ensure you request a west-facing rooms, which all have wonderful Atlantic panoramas). The design savvy at Farol doesn’t stop at the architecture or furnishings – it extends to grounds that ooze Café del Mar-style sex appeal. Muslin-shrouded day-beds have grandstand surf-breaking and ships-on-the horizon outlooks – ideal if you want to retreat à deux. If strutting your stuff in your swimwear is a priority, you may curse Rosa Maria, the hotel’s restaurant for its high-quality southern European dishes. Especially if you sample the adventurous menu desgustación – you won’t find many dieting gurus advocating gorgonzola ice-cream, let alone washed down with a 20-year-old tawny port. But who cares, you’re on holiday. Otherwise, calorie-burning can come courtesy of a surfboard because Cascais is a winner when it comes to catching some waves. Or, if R & R is more your intention, take the ten minute stroll along the seafront to the centre and enjoy the cooling sea breezes – no wonder Portugal’s royal family like to retreat here from the capital during the sweltering summer months. As popular as ever today with couples and families from Lisbon, eager for a good dose of sea air, the promenade is ideal to amble along building up an appetite for spicy piri-piri chicken and grilled squid on the seafront. And, if tackling those waves by surfboard is too high octane, let the lure of a hydro-massage tub big enough for two draw you back to Farol.
Moorish shabby-chic on the windy, wild Costa de la Luz
Rooms: 10. Rates: from €115/ £91. Perfect for… Surfer dudes, hippy chicks, Spanophiles. Packing tips: a jumper for the evenings. Sunglasses, shorts, sandals; leave the heels at home and bring Birkinstocks instead. If you forget anything sporty, you can buy (and hire) all kinds of gear in the surf shops on Calle Batalla del Salad.
Europe’s southern-most point is a magnet for surfers who revel in it's windy weather, hitting the waves by day and the boho bars by night. Rub shoulders with new-age travellers, pretty surf chicks and unwinding urbanites who all flock here to relax and rev up. Mod-Moorish retreat, La Sacristía is the perfect shabby-chic stopover. Tarifa is in Spain’s deep south, and located on a stretch of beaches and cliffs is the Costa del Surf, where Stussy beats Pucci, and the nightlife is less disco, more mellow. When you reach the cobbles of the casco (the medieval centre whose narrow alleyways tend to bruise the old wing mirrors a bit), you’ll need to seek out La Sacristia on foot. The reception/bar opens onto the cobbled alleyway and mixes traditional tiled tables and old stone floors with a profusion of silk lanterns in jewel shades, Moroccan ironwork and a display of Chinese lacquerware. After the exotic colours of downstairs, the rooms are refreshingly simple. The floors are tiled, the walls and muslin curtains are white, and a single piece of driftwood decorates the wall behind the bed head. Anyone who models their lifestyle on Donatella Versace’s – and some like it sumptuous, especially on holiday – may find the beach-hut chic of Sacristia’s rooms on the spartan side. But the unexpected minimalism of it, the quiet and the feeling of being hidden from the bustling town is seductive and tranquil. The bespoke bedlinen and mosaic-tiled wet room are as luxurious as most surf bunnies could ask for.
Riad retreat in a Moroccan medina
Rooms: Four. Rates: €95/ £75. Perfect for… Double daters, family celebrations, exotic shopping trips. Packing tips: bring your iPod for the docking station.
When translated, hotel names usually mean something like ‘pretty house’ or ‘nice hotel’; well, P’tit Habibi means ‘little darling’. It’s a fitting moniker – the white-washed courtyard, streaming with bright light, makes a fresh and surprising contrast with the medina mayhem outside. The design comes courtesy of the owner, an architect who hails from Norway and considers P’tit Habibi his second home and who’s doused it with Scandinavian cool. Every room has its own look with stunning hand-painted furniture and eccentric touches, and our favourite is Wangarata. Stylishly decorated in black and white, in true riad style, a small window overlooks the courtyard, and a fireplace is stocked with wood for chillier nights, but that’s where convention ends. Above the bed hang a large pair of deer antlers and the bathroom mirror is created out of an old pinball machine – there can’t many spots in Morocco where you brush your teeth face to face with a Space Invaders alien. There’s also an impressive movie collection. Have a film projected onto the large wall of the riad’s courtyard, and cosy up Moroccan-style amid giant floor cushions and flickering candles – the perfect wind-down after a busy afternoon in the souk. The perfect property to hire as a whole with a group of friends. Sadly, you can’t have it all to yourselves – you have to share with Shukram the tortoise, who lives behind a pot on the stairs and only comes out when the housekeeper, Fatima, brings him his lettuce-leaf supper. The warm hospitability isn’t just reserved for members of the turtle family: P’tit Habibi specialises in open-armed welcomes. Whether you fancy a quiet day sunbathing on the rooftop terrace or a delicious home-cooked meal prepared by Fatima, nothing is too much trouble.
Geological neoclassical treasure in Bohemia
Rooms: 22, including four suites. Rates: from €112/ £89. Perfect for… Culture vultures, hip-hotel loving hikers. Packing tips: sports clothing – ask the hotel about cycling, horse-riding, rock climbing and hiking among waymarked routes in the woods and hills around Tábor.
An hour and a half from Prague, Tabor is not so much in the middle of nowhere as in the middle of everywhere. As well as plenty of medieval mystery and fairytale history in Tábor's past, the present-day reality at the only boutique-style hotel for miles is comfortable and contemporary. Unique in the former kingdom of Bohemia, Nautilus is the cornerstone of Old Tabor’s fairytale main square. Its neighbours in this historic hill-town are a 15th-century church and pastel-painted houses with amazing gables and engraved sgraffito detail. Enter the hotel though, and discover a timeless urban personality: its interior feels like a postmodern Roman villa, with neoclassical details, peachy terracotta colours, and a water feature in the rear atrium. The restaurant, Goldie, is decorated in Paris-chic style, with a long bar bedecked in glittering metallic mosaic tiles, and a raised dining area enhanced with modern furnishings and artworks. Bursting with artworks throughout, from photography to pieces by Czech artists. And the spiral motif running throughout is worthy of note – Nautilus is the name of a marine creature known as the 'living fossil' – the British owners have a background in geology, and are great collectors. But don’t worry, there’s nothing ancient about the bedrooms, which vary depending on the floor. The cosy rooms at the top have little quirks to amuse, such as a tiny mock theatre stage above one bed. The grander, more grown-up first-floor boudoirs are roomier, right down to the deluxe ensuites, and they offer huge windows overlooking that historic square you’ll want to expore. Locals are proud of the medieval old-town streets, baroque and Renaissance burghers’ houses and beautiful location, with rural rides and walks in the hills a big attraction for summertime visitors. The Czech Republic is largely undiscovered beyond its wildly popular capital: you’ll be glad you found your way to this well-preserved gateway to the south.